Sunday, September 8, 2019

White Privilege is More Common Than We Think

      We like to throw the phrase "white privilege" around like the toy grenades we used to make for our little boys back in the day before calling out toy companies for glorifying war was even thinkable. We toss those verbal fragmentation devices because, while it's ultimately harmless, it gives the appearance that we care enough to say something.
     We charge white privilege every time we hear or read about a white mass shooter getting taken into custody alive or a white boy from a wealthy family getting a break when a lawyer mentions the made-up word "affluenza" or whines about the opportunities that would be lost if we applied the law that should bind all of us to a talented (white) college swimmer.
      And we'd be entitled to make that charge of "white privilege" without ever, or rarely thinking of how we benefit from it even as we decry others from doing the same thing.
      This is the Glorious Age of Trump, in which tens of millions of us are quite comfortable with the idea of fascists marching and goosestepping down our streets, with the collusion and protection of the police, as well as anti Semites and white supremacists, especially as the "man" they voted for in 2016 just can't resist calling them "very fine people."
      And save for a few vocal activists both in and out of Congress, those same tens of millions of us are just as if not even more comfortable with us herding brown, Spanish-speaking people like livestock into detention areas smaller than most of our bedrooms. We're quite comfortable seeing children in cages even when lawmakers such as AOC calls them "concentration camps." Were it not for the horror of it all, it would be comical to listen to MAGAts at turns defend the practice of jailing children in for-profit detention centers while openly showing disdain for the practice by claiming "Obama did it."
      When Lindsey Graham in the legislative body formerly known as the US Senate (since renamed "Mitch's Graveyard") introduced an amendment that would've struck the Flores Rule (that limits migrant detentions to 72 hours) off the books so we could indefinitely detain immigrant children then illegally and with impunity shut down the Democrats' objections, it barely made a blip in one news cycle before dropping down the ravenous Memory Hole.
     And we were extremely comfortable in blaming these children for being stuck in our for-profit concentration camps simply for being with their criminal parents who should've known better than to legally seek asylum at legal points of entry.

     Meanwhile, summer continued. We had barbecues, family reunions, went where ever we could afford to go on our vacations and, whether or not they wanted to go with the 'rents, we took our kids with us. Later in the summer, many of those kids prepared for another year of elementary school, middle school, high school or college. We went to Walmart and obligingly bought the notebooks and pens that school districts stopped supplying many decades ago (Unless you were at a certain El Paso Walmart at the same time as one of Trump's fans).
     When we weren't on vacation by a poolside or on the beach, we sat at night in our mostly climate-controlled homes on more or less comfortable furniture, our families surrounding us or our children in their well-appointed rooms happily tooling around the internet on their cell phones, iPads or laptops and worried about losing a few shingles off our expensive roofs when hurricane season started in a month.
     What we didn't have to worry about was ICE agents bursting through our front doors with No Knock warrants or raiding our places of work on the first day of school. What we liberals, conservatives and others in between never had to worry about was being cramped together so tightly, there was no room to sit down, much less lie down, where (despite daily expenses ranging from $200 to $700 a day) food insecurity became a daily reality, in which shower facilities were denied week after week, our medicine being stolen from us and our children living in equally horrendous conditions, sleeping on concrete under Mylar blankets hardly any thicker than holograms.
     We didn't have to worry about our children dying under the cold uncaring eyes of fascists who absolutely quiver to work in administrations such as this one posing as an actual. functioning government. We didn't have to worry about them getting taunted, tortured, beaten, forcibly drugged and even raped.
     That's because we all of the Caucasian persuasion benefit from white privilege, knowing that, even in the only industrialized country on the planet that arrests and imprisons people who have committed no crimes because of the color of their skin and the language they speak, they will not come after us because our skin is the right hue and we speak the right language and have the right-sounding names.
     Trump said he would not let the US become a "nation of migrant camps" but that same "president" apparently is much more comfortable in letting America become a nation of concentration camps.
     I reject those gloomy prognosticators who sourly say that we're not better than this because we've overthrown democratically-elected governments, displaced Native Americans, enslaved black people and committed virtually every atrocity on the planet. But those were governments past and present that had done all that and slavery ended over 150 years ago.
     Privilege is actually a two-edged sword. It is a gift, one that doesn't have to be earned. We think of it as a gift and not as a weapon that we can use to help others who weren't similarly gifted as a birthright. We need to use that white privilege that insulates us from the horror happening all around us and to stop thinking of it as something that should benefit only us and not others.
     And that starts with all of us acknowledging that we benefit from white privilege and to help those innocent people we're imprisoning for no other reason aside from that it was all brought about on the whims of one clearly insane, racist old man.


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